By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
L-R are:  Stephanie Hinnant (Program Director,)  Tammy and Paul Mazurkiewicz (owners).

Soles4Souls... local Little Gym 
collects little shoes for a big cause
The Little Gym has collected more than 1,000 pairs of shoes for soles4souls
By Beth Volpert-Johansen

The Webb Gin location of The Little Gym may cater to little friends, but those who fill their little shoes have big hearts. As with many local merchants, Co-owners Paul and Tammy Mazurkiewicz believe that giving back is paramount to good business and being part of a caring community. While their immediate community includes some of the smaller residents of the area, Paul and Tammy are happy to show these kids how to make a big impact, one pair of shoes at a time.

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The Little Gym has collected more than 1,000 pairs of shoes for soles4souls

Currently, The Little Gym is celebrating the location’s collection of more than 1000 pairs of shoes for Soles4Souls, which is committed to collecting and distributing shoes to people living in extreme poverty and recovering from natural disasters. Each class at The Little Gym begins with children removing their shoes before entering the gym floor. The symbolism is not lost on the children for whom learning empathy might begin with the simple act of having bare feet.

The Little Gym is an internationally-recognized children's physical development center with an emphasis on "Three-Dimensional Learning" which incorporates physical, mental and social development, within the context of a fun, non-competitive gym environment. The most recent social lesson on empathy happened to coincide with the collection of their 1000th pair of shoes. By offering lessons with “POP”, (Personal, Outside, Practice), the staff are able to help the children apply what they have learned to their personal lives. “It’s nice to see that connection,” says Program Director, Stephanie Hinnant. “When they bring in the shoes from home, they can see how it affects the community.” Stephanie says that the timing was great for showing the children that they can be part of a team.

For the past two years, that team, made up of children and parents, have donated shoes they have outgrown or no longer need in a special Soles4Souls drop box located in the gym’s lobby.  The shoes are shipped to Soles4Souls, and with each pair, two sets of children’s lives are affected in a positive way. “Since kids are often the ones who physically put the donated shoes into our drop-box, they develop at least a little bit of empathy toward others,” said Paul “It's also a natural fit with the 'Citizen Kid' component of our core curriculum that focuses on life skills that help children grow into well-rounded citizens of the world.”

The Little Gym is happy to accept gently worn adult and children’s shoes at their location to support the national campaign, “Big Hearts, Little Shoes.” As a part of the community, Paul and Tammy welcome the interaction with little feet and the big feet who walk beside them. “We can always tell when people clean out their home or garage,” adds Tammy, chuckling.  “Instead of having one or two pairs of shoes donated, we receive one or two garbage bags full of shoes. Then we box them up and ship them out!”

The Little Gym of Snellville, uses a non-competitive gymnastics curriculum to develop confidence and self-esteem in children. For those children who grow up barefoot, every step counts in building self-confidence. A pair of shoes can, quite literally, change the entire life of a child who has nothing to wear on their feet.  Confidence, comfort, and health are all improved when a child can put on a properly fitting pair of shoes to play, grow, go to school, and live. Supporting a community-driven initiative is part of doing good business for Paul and Tammy and the best way to demonstrate the social aspects of the lessons taught at The Little Gym.

In addition to parties and parents night out activities, The Little Gym offers regular classes and camps for children from four months to 12 years old, ranging from gymnastics and sports skills to ballet and tap dancing.  More information on The Little Gym of Snellville can be found at www.thelittlegym.com/snellvillega.